Stuck in a Rock: One Fossil’s Journey in American Politics


In the glacial gridlock that is the essence of American politics, where many of the bills that get passed are highly symbolic, like re-affirming that in God we really do trust, one would think that there isn’t much to adding one more state symbol. Especially when there are already over 50 symbols, including a state migratory marine mammal (the northern right whale) and a state hospitality beverage (tea).

But when Olivia McConnell asked to have the Woolly Mammoth to be recognized as South Carolina’s state fossil, she received much more than the standard “We care about you, really!” email in response (which is all I’ve ever gotten when writing to my representatives). A senator put forth the motion, but standing in opposition to the third-grader’s proposal are a group of conservative lawmakers.

One argues that they have too many state symbols already. “You may not know, but symbols require constant upkeep. Take our hospitality beverage, for example. It costs taxpayers good money to pay for all my tea. Adding one more to the list would just put the deficit through the roof, I mean, can you imagine what it would cost to call a fossil our state symbol?”

Another caused trouble by adding three Bible verses directly from Genesis. He claimed that because the Old Testament was used by more than one religion, it was okay for the state to sponsor it. However, he quickly backpedaled and replaced the verbatim quote with a paraphrase, after being convinced that because multiple religions laid claim to the verses, the copyright issues would have been too much of a hassle.

The bill is currently languishing in the state legislature. One legislator spoke with readme on a condition of anonymity, as he didn’t want to hurt his chances in the midterms. “I was going to vote for it, because it seemed like a nice gesture to a schoolgirl, and those have been polling well recently. But now religion has come into it? I need to hear back from my party boss and figure out how that would go over with my constituents before I can make a public statement.”


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